SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) — South Korea said Wednesday it plans to achieve annual exports of US$700 billion by 2025 by expanding financial support for exporters while fostering new growth engines, particularly in the health care segment.

To meet the goal, the country plans to spend 20 trillion won (US$17.4 billion) on trade financing for exporters through 2025, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

“The global trade environment has been facing changes due to the rising awareness of carbon neutrality, along with digitalization and protectionism,” the ministry said in a statement, pointing out that it is important for the country to brace for the prolonged pandemic as well.

In 2020, South Korea’s outbound shipments came to $512.8 billion, down 5.4 percent from 2019. Asia’s fourth-largest economy suffered a 1 percent retreat last year, marking the sharpest-ever contraction since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

However, South Korea’s exports rose 9.5 percent in February from a year earlier to extend their gains for the fourth consecutive month on robust shipments of chips and automobiles.

To diversify its portfolio, South Korea plans to spend 5 trillion won on fostering new growth engines for the country’s exports. Of the amount, 1.6 trillion won will be spent on the bio-health segment.

South Korea’s bio-health industry has been considered one of a few winners during the COVID-19 pandemic on the back of the strong demand for test kits, with its exports reaching $14.1 billion in 2020, jumping from $9.1 billion tallied in 2019.

Other plans include adding at least two more cargo ship services monthly to lend hands to exporters facing troubles from a hike in freight costs and supply shortages in shipping services.

The country will also start offering business officials COVID-19 jabs in the second quarter and lower barriers for their international travel.